"Don't call me a national treasure – it seems like something you would say about a dead person or someone not working any more. I’m working more than at any point in my life.”

Indeed, with two visits to Sussex in 2014, and his first collection of poetry for 25 years set for release in book form soon, Dr John Cooper Clarke’s star is firmly in the ascent, almost 40 years on from his early appearances as a punk poet in the late 1970s.

And what’s more, he’s more prolific than ever – although he’s not sure why.

“It doesn’t feel like work,” he says. “Somebody up there likes me. I’m able to make a living out of what I do, although I’d be doing it whether I was paid or not.

“The past five years have been unbelievable – I’ve got the poetry bug again, although it’s almost a sickness.

“I don’t know what brought it on – although, you know, the more you work, the more you work. You’ve got to put the hours in, there’s no way around it – and the law of averages says some of it has got to come out good.”

This rise in productivity has coincided with an increase in interest in the one-time bard of Salford. He was the subject of a BBC Four documentary Evidently... John Cooper Clarke, and his poem I Wanna Be Yours featured on the GCSE syllabus.

That same poem was also put to music by Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner for their Mercury Music Prize-nominated latest album AM.

Arctic Monkeys are a band Clarke can’t speak highly enough of.

“Their version is terrific,” he says. “I’m really dead grateful to Alex for that.

“Arctic Monkeys are a proper beat group – they didn’t just answer an advert in the back of the NME. They are schoolmates with the Beatles thing about them – and they are developing like bands used to. They keep reinventing themselves – they went to the States and came back with an LA-sounding album. It’s an inspiration.

“They know where they can get me, obviously, if they want to do something – why would I say no to that?”

In recent years Clarke has also collaborated with Reverend And The Makers and Plan B, featuring in Ben Drew’s Ill Manors movie.

“All the people I work with I like,” says Clarke. “There is a tribalism in music which I feel is very much an English thing. In my life I’ve met a great many of my heroes – Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, the real originators who came out from nowhere – the genii.

“Musicians are only interested in music – they aren’t interested in packaging.”

Old-school style Although he is still keeping up with current trends, Clarke is defiantly old school – writing down ideas wherever he goes with a notebook and pen (“never let a line go by”), not owning a mobile phone (no doubt to the distress of his PR, who struggles to get hold of him on his landline to set up the interview), and refusing to engage with the computer world.

“People are talking now about the waning of newspapers,” he says. “People don’t use newspapers when they can get all the information they need off the web.

“The web doesn’t have any perspective with it – the information could be from an idiot. If you have a job on a paper somebody evaluates your skills as a journalist – they put their trust in you to deliver the goods.

“If you read the same guy every week in a newspaper, you build up some kind of leader-writer relationship. You know what he’s felt about matters in the past and how they square with what you feel about things, and you adjust your assimilation of his claims accordingly.

“It doesn’t take long to find the general political view of any given newspaper, and armed with that knowledge you evaluate its content. In the random world of computers who are they writing for? Who is paying them? Money comes into it – the professional versus the amateur.”

He admits he may be talking out of ignorance as a non-computer user, although his wife Evie does have one in the house.

“The thing with a computer is I know how good they are,” he says. “My three main interests are movies, men’s fashion and pop music – they would keep me in front of a computer screen until the end of time.

“I know how little discipline I have – there’s no end to my curiosity. I can never know enough about Elvis. I’m just the kind of guy who can’t be allowed in front of a computer – I would be found six weeks later dead under a pile of pizza boxes.”

It was this curiosity which led him to start rhyming words at the age of 12.

“I can’t remember a time before 12 when I couldn’t write rhymes,” he says.

“I was aware of rhyme before I went to school because of the Rupert The Bear books – they had a rhyming couplet across the top. The Daily Express used to run it every day.

“I don’t know what it is about reading and writing that gets some people more than others. I would read anything if it had print on it.

All this stuff now about the contents of processed food – I could have told people about that ages ago, I’ve always been a great ingredients reader!”

His choices were admittedly limited growing up in Salford, reading his mother’s Women’s Own, or the Autocar his uncle brought into the house.

“He was the only one in our family who had a car,” he recalls. “You wouldn’t believe it today that only one member of a family had a car.

It was the consumer boom – with all those colourful adverts.”

Since then his reading palate has expanded, with his latest reading matter being Richard Hell’s autobiography I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp.

“I’ve had a lot of offers recently to write an autobiography,” he says. “I’ve realised through reading Richard’s that there is a way of writing an autobiography where you don’t have to be pedantic.

“He’s got a very succinct way of writing, you can tell he’s written it himself. It goes to the piece of him that he wants you to see. He’s a very literate person, Richard, with influences from all over the place, as I have.”

He admits it would be hard to write an autobiography accurately spanning his 65 years.

“It’s difficult given my advanced age and millions of experiences I’ve had,” he says.

“I can see life through several prisms – not just poetry or as a rock and roll memoir.

It would involve the literary world, the world of movies, TV and rock and roll – they’re very big areas.”

His long CV has also seen him appear in UK movie Control, as well as his own aforementioned documentary.

On the small screen he starred alongside the Honey Monster in a series of Sugar Puffs adverts – a precursor to his latest McCain Oven Chips ad.

His recently re-released paperback collection Ten Years In An Open Necked Shirt was a poetry bestseller in the 1980s.

Between 1978 and 1982 he also released three studio albums – which saw his verse backed by music ranging from the avant garde to smooth pop created by legendary Factory producer Martin Hannett’s band The Invisible Girls.

In the same period two live albums Ou Est La Maison De Fromage? and Walking Back To Happiness saw the light of day – both of which caught him in full flow. No self-respecting 1970s punk compilation is complete without his rattatat delivery of Kung Fu International, Evidently Chickentown, Beasley Street or the beautifully acidic T***.

His literary efforts were recognised last year with an honorary doctorate of arts from the University Of Salford.

“DOCTOR John Cooper Clarke – that’s my name now,” he laughs. “Any post without it gets sent back – not known at this address!”

“I’ve lived in Essex now longer than I ever lived in Manchester – I left Manchester in my late teens. This is the longest I have ever lived in one town – if I feel like I belong anywhere, it's here in Essex. It embodies the blue-collar values I was brought up with, much more than Manchester.

“Since it lost its heavy engineering and manufacturing base, Manchester has become a service industry and art capital. Great stuff comes out of Manchester, you don’t need me to tell you that, but it never rains much here – it’s the most temperate climate in the country!”

He feels live performance is still central to his career, continuing to tour up and down the country as he always has done, even during his ten years of drug addiction when his life was more about living hand-to-mouth in a “feral existence”, as he told The Guardian in 2012.

The live shows began to change in the 2000s to something akin to a stand-up gig, packed with beautifully delivered gags, albeit broken up with selections from the plastic bags of verse he always carried with him.

“I would be able to do a whole show without any poetry at all if necessary,” he says. “But I guess people are there for the poetry.

“No two shows are the same – I’ve got so much stuff. I have several old favourites that I always do – like Evidently Chickentown because it featured on the back credits of the penultimate episode of The Sopranos.

“Arctic Monkeys and the Ill Manors performance have meant young people are interested in me – there’s a whole new age group. There’s no technical age range any more for my demographic – it's 16 to 69, which is unbelievable to me. The more the merrier.”

Clarke is a big fan of documentary-maker and writer Jonathan Meades. Clarke draws parallels between his own work and Meades’ idea that there is no such thing as a boring place.

“I try to see everything through this Meadesian prism,” he says. “In one of his shows, Off Kilter, he’s in Scotland talking about a corrugated iron shed and making it fascinating.

“I love being in a car, me and the missus, going to pick up my daughter getting a widescreen look at an endless Jonathan Meades programme as it goes by.

“It’s a poor artist who only paints the picturesque – I hope to find the exotic in the mundane.

“I don’t know what the poetry is for. It’s useless – like all art.

“The only art that is useful is propaganda or decoration. The one thing all art has in common is its uselessness. It’s the icing on the cake of life – it makes it all a bit tastier and attractive.”